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Österreichische Post is the company responsible for postal service in Austria. This company was established in 1999 after its split-off from the mail corporate division of the former state-owned PTT agency Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung (de; PTV). It is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange.
The first standardized postal service was set up between Innsbruck and Mechelen, Belgium in 1490. By 1563 an extensive system of mail routes existed connecting Vienna with cities in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. In 1722 In Emperor Charles VI made the postal service a government monopoly and by the mid-18th century passenger carrying mail coach service began.
Though not in general use until 80 years later, in 1787 the first postmarks were introduced in 1787 by Georg Khumer, a postmaster in Friesach identifying time and place of use.
The first postage stamps of the Austrian Empire were issued on 1 June 1850 featuring the coat of arms under the text KK Post-Stempel. The word Austria does not appear, which is logical, as the issue served in whole central Europe, more precisely in all or in part of the current following countries:
- in the north: the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland;
- in the East Ukraine and Romania;
- in the South Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and the north of Italy;
- Austria and Hungary.
The languages used in the empire were German, Italian, Hungarian, Czech, Serbo-Croat, Polish and French (postmark Chargé). The first adhesive postage stamps were for use in the whole of the Empire, with the exception of the Italian territories of Lombardy and Venetia which were using a different currency. At first they were printed on a rough handmade paper, but after 1854 a smooth machine-made paper was used instead.
On 6 April 1850 the Austro-German Postal Union agreement was concluded between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Prussia to take effect from 1 July 1850. The primary purpose of the agreement was to provide a uniform system of postal rates. By 1 June 1852 all the remaining German states joined the Union. It subsequently became the model for the creation of the Universal Postal Union in 1874.
Stamp issues between 1858 and 1861 used a profile of Emperor Franz Josef, then switched back to the coat of arms, in an oval frame. Four clichés of the 1850 issue had St. Andrew’s crosses printed per pane so that an even multiple of gulden were paid per pane sold.
In 1851 Austria became the first country in the world to issue newspaper stamps which allowed the sending of newspapers and magazines at a reduced rate. The scarlet Red Mercury, or “rote Murkur,” issued on March 21, 1856 is the rarest of the lithographed newspaper stamps authorized on September 12, 1850 which bore Mercury heads but no denominations. The low value blue variety used to frank individual newspapers is the commonest but the higher values in yellow, rose, and scarlet were used on wrappers of bundles of 10 or 50 newspapers and were often discarded.
In 1866 Austria surrendered her Italian territories to the newly formed state of Italy. On 18 February 1867 Emperor Franz Joseph announced that Hungary would have its own constitution and a separate government and so a Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary was established by a decree of 18 November 1868.
An independent Hungarian Postal Administration began operating on 1 May 1867. Current Austrian stamps were withdrawn in Hungarian post offices on 31 May 1867. New Hungarian stamps were introduced on 1 June 1867. Austrian stamps were demonetized in Hungary on 15 June 1867. Franz Josef profiles reappeared in 1867, as a side effect of the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and continued until 1907, with various changes.
During the 1800s letter boxes, money orders, cash-on-delivery services were introduced and a pneumatic mail system was setup in Vienna in 1875.
In 1899 Austria changed its currency from 100 kreuzer in the gulden to 100 heller in the krone; new stamps and stationery were issued accordingly. 1899 also saw the appearance of varnish bars, as diagonal shiny yellowish strips applied to the stamp paper before printing, intended to prevent cleaning and reuse of stamps. The experiment was abandoned with the 1908 issue.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries Austria maintained post offices in the Levant (Ottoman Empire) and in Liechtenstein (Balzers and Vaduz, considered domestic post offices).
In 1908, Austria issued a series of large pictorial stamps, designed by Koloman Moser, to commemorate the 60th year of Franz Josef’s reign, depicting previous emperors, Franz Josef at various ages, Schönbrunn Palace, and the Hofburg (both in Vienna). The designs were reused in 1910 for a Birthday Jubilee issue celebrating Franz Josef’s 80th birthday, the dates “1830” and “1910” being added at top and bottom.
A series in 1916 depicted Franz Josef, the Austrian crown, and the coat of arms, and between 1917 and 1919 Emperor Charles I briefly made an appearance on stamps before the republic was established.
Austria-Hungary issued stamps named Feldpost (K.u.K. FELDPOST) in 1915 until 1918 for use in the occupied regions. During World War I Austria occupied the southern part of Congress Poland. No special stamps were issued. Austrian field post offices were set up which used postmarks with Polish town names.
The first regular international airmail route between Vienna, Kraków and Lviv was established on 31 March 1918 and terminated on 15 October. Three definitive stamps were overprinted FLUGPOST for this flight and showed that a regular airmail delivery was feasible even during wartime. Many philatelists consider this regular post delivery with airplanes to be the actual start of airmail history.
Near the end of World War I, Italy captured the Austrian territories of Trentino and Venezia Giulia. In 1918, Italy issued overprinted stamps for these areas. Stamps sold at Trieste were overprinted “Regno d’Italia / Venezia Giulia / 3. XI. 18.” on Austrian stamps of 1916, and then just “Venezia / Giulia” on Italian stamps, while in the Trentino the overprint was “Regno d Italia / Trentino / 3 nov 1918” on Austrian stamps and then just “Venezia / Tridentina” on Italian stamps. In January 1919 the Italians issued overprinted stamps for all of the occupied territories, the overprint consisting of, for instance, “5 / centesimi / di corona“. This lasted until September, when the Trentino was permanently assigned to Italy and used Italian stamps thereafter, while Trieste became a free city.
After World War I Austria was reduced to its current size and became a Republic in 1919.
The first issues of the Republic of German Austria were overprints reading Deutschösterreich on stamps of the empire, issued beginning in December 1918. In 1919 the Republic of Austria issued stamps with new designs; a post horn, the coat of arms, a kneeling man representing the new republic, and the Parliament building, all done in a vaguely Art Nouveau style, and inscribed DEUTSCHÖSTERREICH (ÖSTERREICH appeared in 1922).
However, Austria was caught in the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, and was forced to print new stamps in ever-increasing denominations, topping out at a 10,000 kroner value in 1924. Even so, Austria was still better off than neighbor Germany, which at that time was issuing stamps of 50 billion marks.
In 1925, a new monetary system was introduced, 100 groschen to the schilling, which continued in use until replaced by the euro in 2002. New stamps were printed also, featuring numerals (for the low values), a field crossed by telegraph wires, a white-shouldered eagle, and a church of the Minorite Friars. Subsequent issues depicted scenic views (1929), and costumes of various districts (1934). The assassinated chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was commemorated in both 1934 and 1936.
In early 1938 the Anschluss put a sudden end to Austria’s stamps. Although the entry of German troops in March was sudden, the transition of the postal system took several months; and included a period where German stamps were required in addition to Austrian stamps (a mixed franking). After the transition period was over, Austrians used stamps of Germany until the end of the Third Reich in 1945.
The wreckage of World War II included the postage stamp production system, and the Allied occupation forces handled the situation in different ways; the Soviets overprinted German stamps before issuing locally printed stamps, while the American/British/French zone used stamps printed in the United States.
In the Soviet occupation zone, starting on 2 May 1945, the stamps of Germany were overprinted. Initially the overprint consisted of just “Österreich”, or “Österreich” and a bar obliterating the “Deutsches Reich” inscription. Hitler’s face remained visible, and this was objectionable, so after 4 June postal clerks were expected to blot out Hitler’s face manually, until on 21 June a new series of overprints came out with a set of stripes over Hitler. In the meantime, some semi-postal stamps of Germany were also surcharged. In Graz, an additional set of overprints with “Österreich” vertical were issued on 22 May for use in Styria.
New stamps inscribed REPUBLIK ÖSTERREICH were issued on 3 July 1945 by the Soviet Union, for use in Vienna and surrounding areas, still denominated in German currency. On the other side of occupied Austria, the Allied Military Government issued a series 28 June depicting a posthorn, for use in areas under Allied occupation (Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Styria, and Carinthia). These stamps were produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., and valid for postage into 1947.
Despite the relatively short period of use, almost all of the occupation-related issues are common and inexpensive to collect today.
General issues produced by the Second Republic became available on 24 November 1945.
Since that time Austria has issued a steady stream of stamps with a variety of subjects, many of them attractively engraved.
The first items of postal stationery to be issued by Austria were envelopes (Briefumschlägen) in 1861 followed by postal cards (Korrespondenzkarten) in 1869 and wrappers in 1872. The concept of Korrespondenzkarten was invented in 1869 by Emanuel Herrmann. They were printed in 8 languages. Lettercards were issued in 1886 and aerogrammes were first issued in 1952.
Postal codes were introduced nationwide in 1966.
In 1986 Österreichische Post started Express mail services and is an EMS Cooperative contracted delivery agent within the UPU.
In April 2020, Österreichische Post launched bank99, a credit institution that offers online services as well as personal customer support at around 1,800 service points throughout Austria. Österreichische Post owns 80% of the bank’s shares, while a 20% stake is held by CAPITAL BANK – GRAWE GRUPPE AG. Post offices and postal service partners serve as distribution channels, which allows bank99 to potentially provide financial services for 99% percent of the Austrian population, closing supply gaps in rural areas.
bank99 offers checking accounts for private customers, services for national and international financial transactions, and credit cards. Secure international money transfers are carried out in partnership with Ria Money transfer. The company has positioned itself in opposition to direct banks, offering personal services through a network of physical locations.
Österreichische Post: Website
Online Sales: Post AG Stamps & Philately
- Post AG PhilaWiki
- Stamp & Philately News 2021
- Austrian Philatelic Society
- Austria Philatelic Society (U.S.)
- Habsburg Philatelist
Republic of Austria
The Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich), is a landlocked East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine federated states (Bundesländer), one of which is Vienna, Austria’s capital and its largest city. It is bordered by Germany to the northwest, the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia to the northeast, Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km² (32,386 square miles) and has a population of nearly 9 million people. While German is the country’s official language, many Austrians communicate informally in a variety of Bavarian dialects.
Austria initially emerged as a margraviate around 976 and developed into a duchy and archduchy. In the 16th century, Austria started serving as the heart of the Habsburg Monarchy and the junior branch of the House of Habsburg – one of the most influential royal dynasties in history. As an archduchy, it was a major component and administrative centre of the Holy Roman Empire. Early in the 19th century, Austria established its own empire, which became a great power and the leading force of the German Confederation but pursued its own course independently of the other German states. Following the Austro-Prussian War and the compromise with Hungary, the Dual Monarchy was established.
Austria was involved in World War I under Emperor Franz Joseph following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the presumptive successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne. After the defeat and the dissolution of the Monarchy, the Republic of German-Austria was proclaimed with the intent of the union with Germany, which eventually failed because of the Allied Powers and the state remained unrecognized. In 1919 the First Austrian Republic became the legal successor of Austria. In 1938, the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who became the Chancellor of the German Reich, achieved the annexation of Austria by the Anschluss. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 and an extended period of Allied occupation, Austria was re-established as a sovereign and self-governing democratic nation known as the Second Republic.
Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy with a directly elected Federal President as head of state and a Chancellor as head of the federal government. Major urban areas of Austria include Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck. Austria is consistently ranked in the top 20 richest countries in the world by GDP per capita terms. The country has achieved a high standard of living and in 2018 was ranked 20th in the world for its Human Development Index. Vienna consistently ranks in the top internationally on quality-of-life indicators.
The Second Republic declared its perpetual neutrality in foreign political affairs in 1955. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995. It plays host to the OSCE and OPEC and is a founding member of the OECD and Interpol. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, and adopted the euro currency in 1999.
The flag of Austria (Flagge Österreichs) has three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and red. It is considered one of the oldest national symbols, with its first recorded use in 1230. The Austrian triband originated from the arms of the Babenberg dynasty. Differently from, for example, the black-and-yellow banner of the Habsburgs, the red-white-red flag was from very early associated not with a reigning family or monarch, but with the country itself.
Other than serving as the flag of Austria since 1230, it was adopted as naval ensign and flags of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and Duchy of Modena and Reggio in the 18th and 19th century respectively, as both were ruled by cadet branches of the House of Habsburg.
The Constitution of Austria does not specify the colour shades of the flag, but members of the Austrian Armed Forces are told that the red on the coat of arms (which is used for the flag shield on the eagle) is Pantone 186 C.
The red-white-red flag is almost identical to the flags of Bouillon and Leuven in Belgium, the flag of Savona in Italy, the flags of Dordrecht, Gouda, Hoorn and Leiden in the Netherlands, and the flag of Puerto Asís in Colombia. The flag is said to have inspired the national flag of Lebanon and the Stars and Bars, ancestor of the present U.S. state flag of Georgia.
The current coat of arms of the Republic of Austria has been in use in its first forms by the First Republic of Austria since 1919. Between 1934 and the German annexation in 1938, the Federal State (Bundesstaat Österreich) used a different coat of arms, which consisted of a double-headed eagle (one-party corporate state led by the clerico-right-wing Fatherland Front). The establishment of the Second Republic in 1945 saw the return of the original arms, with broken chains added to symbolize Austria’s liberation. In 1981 the Wappen der Republik Österreich (Bundeswappen) described the blazon in the Federal Constitutional Law (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz, B-VG). With this change of law it was defined that the specific drawing is to codificate in an own statute law and that all other versions of the coat of arms of Austria were no longer in law. In accordance to this the Wappengesetz from 1984 and the drawing of the actual Wappen der Republik Österreich is in Austrian law. The often used ″Bundesadler″ (″federal eagle″) is only a synonymous term in colloquial language.
The symbols and emblems used in the Austrian arms are as follows:
- The Eagle: Austria’s sovereignty (introduced 1919)
- The escutcheon: Emblem of Austria [de] (late Middle Ages, reintroduced 1915)
- The mural crown: Middle class (bourgeoisie, introduced 1919)
- The sickle: Farmer’s class (peasants, introduced 1919)
- The Hammer: Working class (introduced 1919)
- The broken chains: Liberation from German occupation (added 1945)